When his hosts would ask him late in the evening
to tell of his voyages and the perils they brought,
the words came easily enough,
but he never knew
just how to convey the fear and with what startling
language to let them perceive, as he had,
that distant island turn to gold
across the blue and sudden stillness of the sea.
The sight of it announces a menace
different from the storm and fury
which had always signaled danger.
Silently it casts its spell upon the sailors.
They know that on that golden island
there is sometimes a singing--
and they lean on their oars, like blind men,
as though imprisoned
by the stillness. That quiet contains
all that is. It enters the ear
as if it were the other side
of the singing that no one resists.
Rainer Maria Rilke, from New Poems
Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows, translators